Welcome back to the latest edition of Five Wide Fullbacks! Today we will discuss the shrinking of Notre Dame’s recruiting class, ranking the new college football coaching hires, the best under-the-radar bowl teams, misconceptions about the Irish, and updates to the infamous Top 75 Losses in Notre Dame History.
1 Notre Dame lost a commit this weekend as in-state running back Markese Stepp will no longer be Irish. Will the 2018 situation at running back be a struggle or will it be secretly a quality group?
The easiest way to start off is that Stepp probably wasn’t going to be a factor next year anyway which isn’t a surprise. He had an injury filled high school career, including a very up and down senior season in which he couldn’t get 1,000 rushing yards. He was probably headed for a low 80’s grade from me in our National Signing Day review–decent player but more of a luxury.
That said, if we’re assuming Josh Adams is headed for the pros I’m a little worried about the running backs with the caveat that this is a position Notre Dame typically develops players quickly, so being young isn’t necessarily that big of a deal. Still, I’m sensing more of a 2013-14 running back situation which wasn’t great.
Dexter Williams could absolutely blow up and it wouldn’t shock anyone. He did average almost 9 yards a carry during the regular season! Still, can he stay healthy? Can we see him flip from someone who has provided plenty of excuses (blocking, pass catching) to the unquestioned starter? He doesn’t have 100 carries in his career, can he suddenly carry the rock 150 times as a senior?
I’m not sold on Tony Jones’ speed allowing him to be the premier back and his hands are supposed to be so good yet he matched Dexter with a measly 13 receiving yards. Still, he has room to get better. Same goes for Deon McIntosh who, all things considered, was a major surprise this year and might be someone who develops into a very good running back.
C.J. Holmes is the X-factor with a good mix of size and speed. He might be the surprise player pushing for starter minutes after a strong spring. If his development is a little slower that’s not the worst thing in the world because 4 bodies is a lot in practice. But someone has to really step up.
2 College football head coaching jobs have been in the process of being filled. RANK THEM.
Arkansas – Chad Morris
His deep roots in Texas might open up a nice pipeline for the Hogs. His offense should bring a welcome change to Fayetteville, too. Steady improvement at SMU featuring a winning record in 2017 while scoring 40 per game. Grade: B+
Arizona State – Herm Edwards
Herm Edwards: “Is that a girl’s jersey?”
ASU employee: “No…This is a game jersey”
Herm: “This is a GAME JERSEY?!?!?”
— Doug Samuels (@CoachSamz) December 6, 2017
The Sun Devils kept all of their assistants so they essentially wrote a $12 million check to swap Todd Graham with Herm Edwards. It’s so spectacularly bad maybe it’s genius? Once this stops being funny a year and a half in things could get ugly in the desert. Grade: D-
Florida – Dan Mullen
Is it safe to say this should’ve been the hiring after the Muschamp disaster? I guess you could argue it was a short 2 years and Mullen is probably more qualified to coach the Gators via further experience. Grade: B
Florida State – Willie Taggart
Quite the rise for Taggart who goes from Western Kentucky to Tallahassee in just a little over 5 years. I can’t say I’m too opinionated on him in either direction but something smells like he’s going to struggle and not work out too well. Losing a national championship coach and pretty much lucking into a similar or better situation after quickly scrambling seems a little too, lucky, to me. Grade C+
Georgia Southern – Chad Lunsford
I don’t know this person.
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
Moorehead comes with a very strong offensive pedigree. I’m more concerned about him replacing the greatest modern coach in school history and looking like a guy who’s 44 going on 60. Grade: B
Nebraska – Scott Frost
The Huskers just aren’t going to find better timing nor someone with a higher ceiling. Although, it’s kind of crazy that Frost has only coached 25 career games. Grade: A
Ole Miss – Matt Luke
He’s going to have quite the hole to dig out from and realistically won’t be given the time to really do so. That, or he’s probably a poor head coach. At least he’ll be paid well. Grade: D+
Oregon State – Jonathan Smith
The Beavers might as well try the young former quarterback coming back to his alma mater. What do they have to lose at this point? Smith has a pretty nice resume in his short career, too. Grade: B
Rice – Mike Bloomgren
This is an awful job for just about anyone. In Bloomgren’s case it’s a nice little bump from being an offensive line coach. Rice has to be pretty happy about trying to re-create some of Stanford’s culture. Grade: B
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher
This is so weird. I believe I heard Fisher is the only coach in 40 years to win a title at his current school and voluntarily leave for another school. Somehow he leaves for a tougher job with arguably a less patient fan base. And he’ll have the largest coaching contract ever floating over him. Good luck! Grade: B-
UCF – Josh Heupel
The former Sooner quarterback did some nice things at Missouri recently but hasn’t set the world on fire since leaving Norman as a coach. As Frost proved this is a sneaky great job for the right coach. There are big shoes to fill. Grade: C
UCLA – Chip Kelly
The ever-so-popularly used but usually not quite so, the home run hire! Grade: A+
3 Heading into bowl season which 3 programs had an under-the-radar quality season that more people should be talking about?
Any other damn year and this is a huge story. There was just way too many other stories in the state of Florida to compete. Butch Davis is definitely DGT™ and has the chance to win 9 games for the first time ever in school history.
Bill Clark should win national coach of the year after resurrecting this dead program. This is an awesome story!
New Mexico State (6-6)
This was Doug Martin’s 12th season as a head coach, and 5th with the Aggies. Amazingly this ties his career high for wins! It’s also the first time NMSU is going bowling in my lifetime.
4 Out of the many misconceptions about Notre Dame which one drives you the most nuts?
I often hear about how a pro-style offense fits Notre Dame’s recruiting profile but is that really true? For one, the Irish have had one 6-year period of dominance since the IBM computer debuted and it wasn’t with anything close to a pro-style offense. The position of tight end gets tossed out there quite a bit but that was under-used during that reign and the record-breaking Tyler Eifert didn’t play in a pro-style offense.
How far do you have to go back where Notre Dame was using a successful offensive system that mirrored the pro ranks? You have to go back a really, really long time.
But we can recruit big offensive linemen! Okay, but you can use them to run many different systems. If I hear one more time that the Irish should emulate Wisconsin’s system, I swear. You expect that and you’ll get Michigan’s, no thanks.
I hear people say it fits our profile when I translate that to “let’s run a system that isn’t popular, few elite teams run successfully, and has little historical ties to our school. And hey we can get away with mediocre quarterback and receiever play because grit or something.”
5 Prior to the 2014 season you published the Top 75 losses in Notre Dame history that captivated the internet. Have there been any new losses since that would make a re-published list today?
Remember, my formula ranked the losses in descending order based on championship implications, bad losses (either by margin or to poor teams), the big stage, the subjectivity of pain, and rivalry factor. Back then, 5 losses from the Kelly era made the list:
#68, 2010 Tulsa
#56, 2011 USF
#33, 2010 Navy
#27, 2011 Michigan
#9, 2012 Alabama
We’ve witnessed 19 losses since the list was originally published. Here are the ones I think deserve consideration in some form:
Everything from this season is tough to look back with hindsight knowing BVG’s defense was going to slowly crumble and injuries devastated the roster. This one scores incredibly high on the big stage and pain.
Technically, 3 of the wheels fell off the week prior against Arizona State and this was the final wheel. Again, hindsight clouds this loss with Cody Riggs and Austin Collinsworth playing key roles on defense. Plus, the Wildcats were a bad team but not really that bad. They did beat a ranked Wisconsin team and almost upset Michigan the prior week. So this would get high bad loss points and a little bit of pain.
I felt like this game or the ASU one mentioned above could make the list but chose this one because of the rivalry factor. Plus, the Irish did show a pulse in the second half in Tempe. This game was over in a hurry.
The twin brother to the previous year’s loss at FSU, except we didn’t play as well. In a way, that makes this one easier to take I think. Realistically knowing what we know now about Clemson I’m okay believing the weather mucked this one up in our favor. As the only loss in the first 11 games this has to score high championship, big stage, and pain points.
This one scores so many bad loss points. The Blue Devils lost 8 games and only beat 1 other Power 5 program (North Carolina, by 1 point) in addition to defeating Notre Dame.
Best single-game opp-adjusted efficiency performances to date per FEI ratings:
1. Miami > Notre Dame
2. Georgia > Auburn
3. Auburn > Georgia
4. Oklahoma > Ohio St
5. Clemson > Miami
Game ratings for every team: https://t.co/UhW9ELXJn5
— Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) December 6, 2017
The ’14 USC game is the biggest loss for Kelly by points but this game against Miami is second and given the differences in the seasons to their respective points far more painful.
For me, the ’16 Duke and ’17 Miami games would crack the Top 75 list today. I really have a tough time putting anything from 2014 because of all those injuries but all 3 would easily make the Top 100, I think. That leaves the ’15 Clemson and I’d probably err on the side of caution adding it but maybe could be convinced otherwise.